We teach and learn every waking moment – picking lessons in art, speech or the way of life from almost every individual we interact with. No matter what the age, the setting or the topic, someones casual statement could just as well be someone else’s eureka moment.
A week back a few friends shared their children’s pictures to a closed group of people and I found the the subsequent chain of mails rather interesting.
The parents received generous compliments for their chubby little cute babies – “Your boy looks so naughty”, “Your girl is such a Doll”, ” Watch out, she is going to be looker” etc.. These were compliments dished out with all sincerity and for the young kids all in the age group of 3-6.
“So whats the fuss?” , you may think “All these are perfectly normal and acceptable compliments for children.”
The problem here is not the compliments, but that we always show a child that looks are the first thing we notice about them and looks are what we compliment them about. A child with glasses is frowned upon for what we assume is a consequence of too much TV, or a girl returning home from play is quickly asked to fresh up. These points go past the gender stereotyping – they leave an impression on their young minds of the life they should be carving out. We may inadvertently be setting them up on course that is not their choosing – making projections of not just the appearance but in a way setting limitations and aligning the individual to a limited goal.
(Watch what you say and watch what you see – She is more than a pretty girl, but, most likely to believe what you most say to her)
Of Course, the fact remains that with time, age and common sense will ensure that individuals break out from such limitations YET, just the massive prevalence of statements that shapes a individuals self image is overwhelming, and the fact that it begins early doesn’t help either.
On my last vacation the tour guide said to me “You are a family of three children, two sons and a daughter- in our country that is what a father needs , two sons to shoulder the burden and one daughter to mourn when the time comes.” It made me wonder, what paths the women would begin to chalk for themselves when they heard such thoughts every day especially from those who they considered mentors.
There has been a huge hue and cry over gender stereotyping in the text books like references to the mother cooking and the father reporting to a boss. However, that is just part of the bigger problem.
How do we check the sweeping statements or fables that come to mind when you see certain individuals (not excluding children)? Even if we do not say these things, how do we reduce the impact of such statements on young minds.
The only way an individual can contribute is to be intentionally and constantly a role model, speaking to young minds of a life of endless possibilities and limitless ideas – a life that shapes its own meaning and remains untouched by biased learning’s (yours or mine). Make them explore aspects of their thought – even if it is for the briefest moment.
Although there would be many instances where they would be typecasting themselves into a beauty queen or a geek , at least you would have shown them that life does not have to be a choice between Either Or.